Multifamily Quarterly Analysis: Renter Journey Patterns and Paths to Conversion

renter journeyEvery quarter, PERQ analyzes tens of thousands of multifamily website sessions and prospect interactions to identify industry benchmarks and trends. Until now, multifamily marketing performance metrics have been incredibly hard to pinpoint, and PERQ’s Multifamily Quarterly Report (MQ for short) is designed to fill that gap. The quarterly cadence is also important if we are to keep up with changing consumer behaviors.

Our goal is to equip you with evidence to make confident marketing decisions, validate your recommendations to your leaders and clients, and magnify your return on spend.

 

Unveiling Q2/2022 data insights

This September, we’re releasing the second installment of the MQ Report, revealing findings of our Q2/2022 data study. The report, titled Prospect Engagement Across a Lengthening Renter’s Journey, reveals common patterns in a typical renter’s journey and the impact of various marketing tactics on lead capture, engagement, and conversions.

To kick things off, Maribeth Ross, PERQ’s EVP of Marketing, presented a few highlights of that analysis in a webinar. We’ve captured a few takeaways in this post – just a sampling of what you’ll find in the report, linked below.

 

The renter’s journey is getting longer

Today’s renter’s journey is quite long, more expedition than excursion. Those prospects we used to call “Lookie Lous” are now your standard rental prospect: slow-moving, thoughtful, inquisitive.

From the time a rental prospect becomes known to the PMC to the time they sign a lease, we’re looking at an average of 46 days, with the longest journey in our data set stretching to 194 days. About seven in ten rental prospects in our study indicated their planned move-in window was a month or more in the future. A third said their move was three or more months away, and a quarter were ready now or in the near future.

 

Longer journeys entail more touchpoints and opportunities to engage (or lose) prospects

Along their journey, prospects have plenty of ways to get to their destination. “There are also tons of places where the renter can fall out of the journey,” Maribeth notes.

During their search, 43% of prospects visited a property website multiple times, and engaged visitors converted to known contacts at a rate of about 20% by interacting with the website in a way that compelled them to offer their contact information.

Visitors to multifamily property websites are largely mobile: 64% of first-time visitors accessed websites via their smartphone and nearly all remaining visits happened on desktop. Interestingly, lead-to-tour conversions rose by more than 74% when visitors accessed the website multiple times using multiple devices.

“Prospects are taking more time to be thoughtful and seek out information at their own pace. Your property website and marketing touches need to be built to keep these people engaged and active over an extended period of time and on different devices,” Maribeth notes.

 

Turning visitors into renters

Allow us to stress the impact of your website on the renter’s journey: Our data made it clear that website leads outpaced the conversion of paid leads by more than double. That’s a staggering difference in lead quality.

So how do you get visitors to return, again and again, and progress toward conversion?

 

>> Delivering interactive experiences

For starters, interactive experiences beat static content, nearly tripling engagement. “When we say interactive experiences, we mean things like an interactive floor plan match widget, a virtual tour, some kind of community explorer or chatbot,” Maribeth shares.

Nurture emails and texts with personalized calls to action that tied back to interactive experiences on the website also played a key role in conversions. “Of all the tours that were scheduled over Q2 in this data set, 40% of them were people who engaged with personalized nurture outreach,” says Maribeth, stressing the content they received was customized to each recipient. “It wasn’t like an email blast. It was personalized,” she adds.

 

>> Building rapport and driving interest with personalization

Personalization is huge — not just according to PERQ’s MQ analysis, but also to mounting data from leading research firms like Gartner, McKinsey, and more. Put simply, consumer expectations for online brand experiences have escalated sharply since the onset of the pandemic.

“McKinsey’s research shows 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and they get frustrated when that doesn’t happen. If consumers don’t like the experience they receive, it’s easier than every to just go somewhere else,” Maribeth explains. McKinsey also reports that high-growth companies attribute 40% or more of their revenue to personalization efforts.

“If you know a prospect’s preferred amenities or floor plans, for example, there’s a lot you can tailor to those interests in your communications, whether it’s an email outreach, SME nurture, and even face-to-face conversation,” says Maribeth.

Message timing is another opportunity to reflect prospect preferences. People who’ve self-reported a longer move-in time frame might need messages that are spaced out further over time than someone who’s looking to move more quickly. Channel preferences — email over SMS, for example — also offer opportunities to cater to individual prospects.

 

>> Satisfying the itch for instant gratification

As consumers, we’ve come to expect instant answers, often calling on Siri, Alexa or Google to navigate our daily lives and satisfy impulse questions. Multifamily property websites can provide the same satisfaction.

“The ability to converse with prospects in the middle of their journey had a lot of impact on our conversion data,” notes Maribeth. “Prospects that engaged in chat conversations or asked questions of a property website via automated chat interactions (whether on website, email or SMS) converted to a tour at a 36% rate, compared to a 16% rate without those automated conversations.

“What really stood out to me is that prospects weren’t necessarily engaging with the chatbot on their first website visit, but they were also conversing with it in other channels well into their journey, prompted by a marketing nurture touch,” Maribeth explains.

One key takeaway, she adds, is that personalized nurture plus the ability to chat across channels is a powerful combination.

 

Mythbusting: How many touches does it take to convert a prospect?

Old industry lore says if prospects don’t respond to three touches, don’t bother trying any further. We beg to differ: Our data shows 32% of booked tours came from prospects who had three or more nurture touches, and more than 8% of tours were scheduled after six or more personalized touches.

“The data proves that personalized nurture outreach drives substantially better leasing outcomes and needs to be sustained longer than a couple of touches. It needs to be dynamic and adjust to today’s apartment shoppers. Failure to properly nurture these leads for the length of their renter’s journey is leaving proverbial money on the table,” Maribeth advises.

 

A deeper look into personalization

As we looked at multifamily communities in our Q2 data set, we saw they collected quite a bit of information for each prospect: 12 data points on average. They used information to personalize their renter’s journey. Personalized data fell across these broad categories:

  • Basic contact info (e.g., name, email, phone number)
  • Detailed first-party data (self-reported preferences like move-in window, preferred bedroom or bathroom cuts, desired amenities, budget, etc.)
  • Metadata (data captured and stored in your technology systems like website visits, traffic sources, devices used, duration of session, etc.)

 

Below are examples of simple personalization:

 

  • First Name: Use their name in nurture outreach
  • Move-in window: Use to create urgency in copy of nurture outreach
  • Pet preference: Use to send them info about how your community supports pets
  • Preferred floor plan: Use to send them a reminder about a floor plan they loved
  • Website activity: Use to determine the next best step for them to take on your website to move along the renter’s journey

 

Granted, before you can personalize communications, you must be able to collect and deploy it with ease. To benefit prospects and marketers alike, your prospect data needs to be easily queried so you can send the right message to the right people at the right time.

 

Diving deeper into actionable insights

 

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, and there’s plenty more to explore. We invite you to catch the full webinar presentation and download your copy of the MQ report to deepen your understanding of elements that can supercharge your marketing outcomes.

Watch the presentation below!

Grab your copy of the latest Multifamily Quarterly Report, Prospect Engagement Across a Lengthening Renter’s Journey, today!

Tomorrow’s Technology for Today’s Leasing Team

Technology that has been made for multifamily property management has seen a lot of advancement and innovation in the last few years. With so much new software, is there any harm in trying them out or is it better to just wait, and see?

 

Lisa Lawrence, Property Manager at Aura at Arbodale, a Bonaventure Property, chatted with Muhammad Yasin on our most recent sofa seminar about the latest in leasing tech. She is known for trying out new and different platforms at her property to see what is the best and what isn’t worth your time.

 

 

During this Sofa Seminar, they chatted through a wide range of topics including:

  • Leasing AI
  • The Importance of Personalization
  • Integration within your Tech Stack

 

As a whole, a lot of us spent quarantine talking about going back to normal and that virtual leasing and leasing AI are fads that aren’t here to last post-pandemic. “There’s no advancement and growth in going back,” explains Lisa. With leasing AI, she knows that herself and her leasing specialists feel more educated and have more confidence when talking to prospects as AI Assistants have empowered them with better and more personalized data on prospects.

 

“We don’t sound like robots asking all these questions anymore because they have already talked to a robot who’s asked them,” she goes on. By handling prospects’ questions and only handing off qualified leads, leasing AI has saved Lisa and her team hours of work. They are able to talk to personalize the conversation and tour to make the prospect feel more at home. All this new tech has allowed Lisa and her team to make a bigger impact with prospects.

 

Lisa does note the importance of integration within your tech stack. For her, they use Entrata as their PMS. For any new tech they try out, whether its virtual leasing platforms or AI chatbots, if it doesn’t integrate smoothly, she doesn’t waste her time with it. At the end of the day, all this tech should be making it easier for teams to do their jobs and not create more work.

 

The multifamily industry has been known to be a little wary of embracing new technology. Within the last two years, the industry has seen how valuable being up to speed is. From virtual leasing and now to leasing AI, there have been a lot of new products to try. To all those who are still unsure, Lisa says “I don’t foresee it hurting, keep an open mind, it’s only going to benefit you.”

 

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Let’s Talk Training: Building a Winning Training Program for Leasing Teams

For every job in every industry, training is always important for onboarding and maintaining the quality of work expected. Training can include how to use new tech tools, a refresh on providing excellent customer service, or anything in between.

Building a Winning Training Program June Sofa Seminar high | PERQ AI Leasing Assistant

Angie Lombardi, VP of Marketing at The Franklin Johnston Group breaks down how she tackles training her own teams and the success and pitfalls she’s come across during a recent Sofa Seminar with our host and EVP of Marketing at PERQ, Muhammad Yasin.

 

During their almost hour long discussion, Angie had a few overarching themes in the way she handles training at The Franklin Johnston Group’s properties. These include:

  • How to give great customer service
  • The importance of adaptability
  • Being kind to one another
  • Clear expectations

She went into how great customer service needs to be personable but not too intrusive. Angie talked about one of the servers at a restaurant that impressed The Franklin Johnston Group’s founders with how he mastered being personable but not too over the top and aggressive. She notes in her training program they talk about how team members need to mirror the prospect.

 

She also discussed how training doesn’t only happen with new team members, but is something that should be done over again with everyone so that the entire team knows exactly what is expected and are up to date on how to use their different tech tools. Angie also emphasized how kindness is important in the workplace. Encouraging team members to compliment each other and say something positive about someone is how she creates a work environment where everyone feels welcome and important.

 

She highlighted this to point out how toxic and bad managers will trickle down and turn even the most robust team members into giving the most average service. The point behind the kindness and constant training of everyone at every level is to combat bad management and create a welcoming atmosphere at all their properties. This atmosphere can be felt by prospects and residents as they interact with the onsite team and building staff.

 

To hear more about the specifics of Angie’s training process, you can catch up by watching the full Sofa Seminar below:

 

Learn more about PERQ and schedule a demo.

 

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Digital Disruption: A Deep Dive into Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is and always will be evolving with the latest tech and innovative tools. No business in today’s world can survive long term without an active digital marketing plan. What does that look like for property management companies and multifamily communities?

 

Daniel Paulino, VP of Digital Marketing at Bozzuto, sat down with Muhammad Yasin, our EVP of Marketing, to take a deep dive into the world of digital marketing for mutlifamiy communities. From how to invest your digital dollars wisely, to how to help integrate tools that help the onsite teams, there’s a lot digital marketing can do for multifamily properties.

 

 

During this Sofa Seminar, they chatted through a wide range of topics including:

  • The Prospect’s Journey
  • Apartment Websites
  • Investing in your Tech Stack
  • Using Metrics to Measure Value

 

When it came to advice on how to look at your digital marketing efforts, Paulino said, “Bottom line there’s two main driving points that are extremely important; what does the prospect need and how is your business addressing that.”

 

Stand Out from the Crowd

 

Paulino noted how many prospects begin their journey on an ILS before getting to your property’s website. This means that they know a lot about pricing and amenities but they don’t know your property’s story. Your website should showcase who you are and what makes you different from other properties.

 

“Consumers have an obsession these days with floor plans,” Paulino continued to say. Your website needs to have high quality and informative floor plans. Whether they are 2D or 3D, interactive floorplans keep prospects interested and according to Paulino, he’s seen an increase in time spent on property websites that have quality floor plans.

 

He also made sure to emphasize that when you look at your tech stack and each individual tool, you can’t just look at one metric. Look at the prospect’s journey, what tools they interacted with and the data that was collected from them. While you need to look at multiple metrics, the most important data point Paulino wants multifamily communities to look at is the lead to lease conversion rate.

 

The chat between these two brilliant digital marketers is one to look back on for advice when you’re in a marketing rut and to make your properties stand out from the rest of the crowd.

 

Learn more about PERQ and schedule a demo.

 

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A Year of Virtual Leasing with Realync

This time last year, almost down to the day, our world shifted into a reality we are still living in. Being socially distant, quarantining to keep others and ourselves safe, and not visiting people or businesses in person became normal. In that time, video started to consume everyone’s lives.

Matt Weirich, CEO and Co-Fouder of Realync, a DIY video touring platform, sat down with PERQ’s EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, to take a look back at how virtual touring quickly became a go-to solution for multifamily communities and how to keep it relevant after the pandemic.

 

Create Meaningful Content

 

A large part of how the Realync team was able to scale their video solution so quickly during a critical time was their approach on authenticity.

 

Matt says “The biggest thing about fostering the feeling of ‘home’ is keeping it authentic.” Keeping a real and honest tone to videos allowed leasing teams to adapt and take the pressure off of shooting a production quality video.

 

One of the biggest takeaways of the conversation was “humanize the experience.” Don’t be afraid to use the prospect’s name in the video or call out specific details about the unit you know the prospect is searching for. At the end of the day, the unit you are showing them is going to be their home. The video should make them feel as such.

 

Once you are comfortable shooting the videos, you should think about how to  take them to the next level. Following guidelines such as

  • Using a video stabilizer when possible
  • Stand and Pan! (Don’t walk and shoot at the same time)
  • Always try to shoot facing away from a window to allow natural light into the room
  • Being cohesive and showing a natural flow when editing
  • When in doubt, pre-recorded videos are your best friends

 

 

Video as a Multi-Channel Tool

 

Matt also mentioned how video can be used as a multi-channel tool instead of just for leasing teams.

Some examples of this is having your on-site team shoot and send a welcome video to new residents. Include where amenities are located, leasing office hours or simply an introduction of the team.

 

Maintenance teams can jump into video as well, providing examples of how to submit for maintenance requests or simple do’s and don’ts of when to call for maintenance help.

 

The most important thing to remember when using video as a multi-channel solution is know where and how to post your videos. If you are calling out a prospect’s name or any personal information in the video, that should be shared directly with that prospect and that prospect only. If your video is broad and shows off a unit, the amenities or members of the team, those can and should be shared anywhere prospects can view content (ex social media, YouTube, property website)

 

The Future of Video Tours

 

When asked about the future of video tours, Matt provided some great insight. He shared some words one of his Realync clients mentioned to him “It’s not up to me as a leasing agent to decide what the prospect does or does not want to see, it’s up to me to provide the opportunity.”

 

The biggest takeaway is many people have become accustomed to doing things virtually. Video is not going anywhere and it is up to multifamily teams to continue giving video tours as an option for their prospective renters.

 

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Multifamily Marketing in a Pandemic

PERQ EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, played host to another insightful lunch and learn which explored the challenges multifamily properties faced while trying to market to shifting consumer behavior during the pandemic. Guests Liv Gabrielsen, Director of Marketing for Bainbridge, and Scott Papenfus, Director of Strategic Partnerships for LCP360, chatted about the creative ways they’ve adapted efforts and the true impact of the pandemic with an in-depth conversation on:

 

  • Shifting multifamily marketing efforts
  • The increased use of virtual tours 
  • Role of community, conversation and communication
  • Standing out in an email and on social media
  • Tertiary metrics
  • Tool integration


Virtual Chat: Marketing in a Pandemic from PERQ on Vimeo.

 

When asked about big shifts in general as a result of the pandemic, Liv began by acknowledging what most businesses experienced, consumers embracing the digital experience. 

 

“For multifamily, what it did is forced our industry to embrace all things digital as we saw stay-at-home orders. The COVID pandemic made us shift what we’re doing to ensure we can meet consumer demands in a 100% digital environment.”

 

She added that the industry knew they would need to embrace consumers’ digital demands eventually. The pandemic just accelerated the process. 

 

“We’ve known this for years; it’s been moving in this direction,” Liv says. “For me, it was still a little bit of a shock of sorts — how fast we had to lean into some of the things or behaviors we were already thinking about, then suddenly over the course of a couple of weeks went from ‘Yeah, we’re going that way’ to ‘Now this is it.’”

 

Scott shared that, from a technology company’s perspective, they saw a huge increase in the number of virtual tours.

 

“You can literally look at a graph and just see this huge spike in virtual tours when the pandemic hit,” he says. “One of the key things we’re seeing is more and more people on-site are using our guided virtual tour or mirrored virtual tour.”

 

He explains consumers are not touring alone, instead doing so virtually with a leasing agent on-site who shares their knowledge and expertise about the property while customizing the tour for the prospect. 

 

“I’ve really seen an uptick in interest is people wanting to perform kind of a hybrid — it’s a virtual tour, but it’s actually led by somebody on-site,” says Scott.

 

“For multifamily, we want that face-to-face interaction because our communities are more than just four walls,” Liv says. “It’s the community, the environment and the lifestyle. So, how do we communicate that in a digital way when we are removing these on-site visits? That was the challenge — we knew we had to provide a full picture of what it’s like to live in a Bainbridge community.” 

 

Watch the full video to learn more about what Liv and Scott implemented to better serve and market to their customers during the pandemic.

 

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